Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Guest Post: Ballooning and the Lunardi Craze, by Shelley Adina

Nineteen Teen is delighted to welcome back Shelley Adina, author extraordinaire and Regina's co-author on the Regent's Devices series, for a discussion of ... balloon fashion. Yes, really!

Balloon flight at once intrigues and terrifies me. I’ve been up in a Zeppelin airship, but that was much more exciting than frightening. The technology probably gave me a false sense of security, with its cockpit, two pilots, and propellers galore. Going up in a balloon with only a fire to heat the air and a wicker basket between me and death makes me want to adhere most positively to the ground!

Balloon flight was not invented during the Regency, but in France by the Montgolfier brothers. They had been experimenting with ascents for some time, but achieved the first free-floating manned flight in 1783. As little as a year later, a positive craze for hot-air ballooning had spread to England, where in London “the daredevil aeronaut,” Vincenzo Lunardi, went aloft with a dog, a cat, and a pigeon in a cage. (It is not clear what purpose these companions were to serve.)

As often happens, novelty and massive, fascinated crowds combined to inspire a fashion craze. Balloons might become part of one’s gown, one image showing them on the sides like external panniers, in place of the usual drawn-up outer gown. The caption in French reads, “The coquettish physicist.” And the hats! In the coquettish physicist’s hair is fixed a base that looks like a fairground, the balloon floating up out of it.  

These mad embellishments were not restricted to women—-men wore clothes with decorative homages to the new fad. One drawing of a man wearing rigging similar to that on the top of a balloon says in French, “The man of balloons, or, the folly of the day,”  A creative woman might embroider her gown’s fabric with balloons, or paint its cotton panels.

Like many fads, something that was meant to be highly visible but not very comfortable didn’t last long. The hat lasted the longest, but not the kind with actual balloons ascending from it. The Lunardi bonnet is seen in a painting dated 1782. This style lasted well into the Regency, and is fetchingly worn by Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood and Gemma Jones as Mrs Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1995). Want your own Lunardi bonnet? A very nice version is available on Etsy!





Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Richard Trevithick: Getting Steamy in Cornwall

In The Emperor’s Aeronaut, the character of Loveday Penhale gained some of her knowledge of steam engines from the great Richard Trevithick, a Cornwall native like her. While he doesn’t appear in the book, he was a real-life engineer whose works astonished everyone around him.

As someone with two people with Attention Deficit Disorder in her household (and a profound love for both of them), I can recognize the traits in Richard. One of his biographers called him quick-tempered and impulsive. His teachers called him slow, obstinate, and very inattentive, but he excelled at math. Though it was said he had enthusiasm, his father considered him a loafer. Like father and maternal grandfather, he began working in the tin and copper mines in Cornwall when he was nineteen, but as an engineer, not a miner.

He was simply fascinated by steam power.

Steam engines were already being built when Richard entered the field, but they were low-pressure, often massive, and generally took their own sweet time getting anything done. Other inventors shied away from the potential danger of a high-pressure engine, but not Richard. He kept tinkering until around 1800, he developed the first high-pressure steam engine. He would go on to use it for railway locomotives, an iron-rolling mill, a paddle-wheel barge, steam carriages (yes, he had the first two in the world), steam dredgers, and threshing machine.

He even had the idea for a “steam circus” in London and set up his Catch-Me-Who-Can, a locomotive that ran on a circular track. It was the first locomotive to haul fare-paying passengers, at a shilling a ride, but the soft ground proved incompatible with the engine’s weight, and he had to abandon the scheme.

Though he married at age 26 and had six children, it was his love for inventing that drove him. In 1814, Peruvian silver mines ordered nine of his engines. By 1816, he was off he went to see the New World. Few knew what had happened to him. Sadly, when he returned to England in 1827, he had lost what fortune he’d found. He died in 1833 in Kent.

But his legacy inspired other engineers to continue advancing the steam engine, fueling the Industrial Revolution around the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Pretty Interesting in Pink

What might you have worn for an evening party 210 years ago? Maybe this?



Er, maybe not. But let’s have a look anyway at this offering from La Belle Assemblée, May 1812:


No. 1 - Evening Dress  An embroidered white crape, or fine India muslin frock, with long sleeves, and trimmed round the bottom with fine lace, set on full, worn over a blush colour satin or sarsnet slip; the frock ornamented down the front of the skirt with beads and lace in the Egyptian style. Parisian mob, worn unfastened, of puckered pink, and white crape over pink satin. Small pink satin tippet, with full plaiting of lace. Cestus of pale pink, confined by a clasp of pearl. Pink satin slippers, with white rosettes. The jewellery worn with this dress is the shaded cornelian, or large pearls.


Reading the description, I think this might, in many ways, have been a rather pretty dress: picture very, very fine, sheer white embroidered muslin over a pale pink underdress, so that as the wearer moved, your attention might be drawn by the embroidery one minute, and by the color the next. The oblong panels “in the Egyptian style” (and I’d love to know what makes them particularly ‘Egyptian’) aren’t very attractive by modern standards, though, nor is the pink satin “tippet”, or scarf around the shoulders, unless it drapes in an interesting way or offers some other visual interest in the back. A cestus is a belt; what's noteworthy here is that it appears almost at the natural waist, rather than up under the bust.


The hat—a “Parisian mob” (and now all I can think of is A Tale of Two Cities!) is "interesting" as well—not the mental picture I have of a mob cap, but more almost like a pair of kerchiefs.


All in all, not one of La Belle Assemblée’s more noteworthy efforts, but it has its charms. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

An Aeronaut Launches!

It’s no secret I love steampunk, that juxtaposition of history and science with a touch of wonder and whimsy. So I am beyond-the-moon excited to be writing a trilogy of Regency-set steampunk novels with master-in-the-field Shelley Adina. We affectionately call them “Prinnypunk” after the Prince Regent. 😊 The first is now out!

Napoleon is determined to conquer the world with his steam-powered weapons. Nothing in England can stop him … except two young lady inventors.

In 1819, France is surrounded by armies. With Russia in the north, the Karlsruhe Confederacy in the east, and a pirate kingdom in the south, Napoleon cannot break out, nor can the English Navy seem to break in. Europe teeters on the edge of a sword. Whichever side rules the air will win.

Celeste Blanchard, daughter of the Emperor’s disgraced Air Minister, is running out of time to develop an air ship that can carry his armies to England and restore her mother to glory. But on a daring and desperate test flight, she is blown off course … and washes up, half drowned, on the shores of Cornwall, in the heart of enemy territory.

Loveday Penhale, cosseted daughter of gentry, has her own inventions to build, even as pressure mounts to behave like a proper young lady and seek a husband instead of a design for a high-pressure steam engine. But when Arthur Trevelyan, heir to the neighboring estate, Gwynn Place, asks for her help in rescuing an unconscious young woman on the beach, Loveday discovers an aeronaut and an inventor as skilled as she is. Between them, a friendship blossoms, and Loveday wonders if they might even pull off the impossible and invent an air ship that will catch the eye of the Tinkering Prince Regent, who has offered a prize to anyone who can help England break the impasse. Celeste’s loyalties are torn in two. If she is caught working secretly for France, she will lose her friend, the love of an honorable man—and her life. But if Napoleon learns she has betrayed him, she will be executed on sight. 

Can friendship prevail in the face of war? Or is there a third solution—one where everything hinges on the bravery and daring of a Cornish debutante and the Emperor’s aeronaut?

Booklist called it “a witty and whimsical flight of fancy,” and Among the Reads said “I was mesmerized from the first page by these plucky, brilliant ladies.”

Get your copy in ebook or print at fine online retailers:

Amazon (affiliate link) 

Apple Books 


Barnes and Noble 

Google Play 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Stolen for a Song?

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it is time for the next installment in the Ladies of Almack’s series, Lyrics and Larceny.

In Lyrics and Larceny, we meet Lady Patroness and shadow-shaper Annabel Fellbridge’s cousin Hartley, who has been shaken from his self-absorbed ways by Demetria Pouli, a bewitching Greek soprano who is taking London by storm. When a rash of jewel thefts seems to accompany her recitals, Annabel fears Demetria may not be what she seems. As it happens, she isn’t—but a happily-ever-after for Hartley and Demetria isn’t necessarily out of the question, thanks to the Ladies of Almack’s…

I’ve made use of my fondness for classical mythology in this story, as you will see…and have dropped a few hints that another figure from classical mythology—a little boy equipped with bow and arrows—might be making an appearance soon. I hope you’ll enjoy this latest story in the series: it’s light-hearted fun for not-so-light-hearted times.

Lyrics and Larceny can be purchased directly from the publisher, Book View Café, in both EPUB and MOBI formats as well as from all the usual online bookstore outlets. Print versions can be found at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. (affiliate links may be used)

Book View Cafe

Barnes and Noble





In addition, the next three books in the series are available for pre-order at all vendors, so if you're enjoying them, you can grab em now. Happy reading!


Monday, May 2, 2022

What Lies Beneath is a RONE Finalist!

You’re probably surprised to see a post from one of us on a Monday. But there’s a good reason for me to be posting today—I would very much appreciate your help!

My young adult fantasy What Lies Beneath is a finalist in InD’tale Magazine’s 2022 RONE Awards. Books achieve finalist status by receiving a 4 ½ or 5 star review from the magazine during the previous year—in my book’s case, it was a 5 star review (which you can read here.) The RONE Award is a three-step contest; once the finalists are announced (first step) then there’s a sort of “people’s choice” contest, where readers vote for their favorite books. In the final step, the top vote-getters in the middle round go on to be judged by industry professionals to decide the winner in each category.

So what I really hope is that you’ll take a moment to vote for What Lies Beneath, to help it move onto the final round. Here’s what you do:

  • Sign up/log in at www.indtale.com Please note that you’ll have to sign up, but it’s not a difficult or lengthy process. 

I should add that What Lies Beneath is currently on sale at Book View Cafe for $2.99 for a limited time, available in both EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) formats.

And I’ll be very grateful for any votes from NineteenTeen readers. You’re the bestthank you!